Author Archives: Shawn
The family and I just got back from my all time favorite vacation, super relaxing, great food, perfect weather, the company of awesome friends with lots of time for making crafty stuff… on a houseboat.
When our original vacation plans fell through in late May, we scrambled for a quick, affordable and nearby plan “B”. After checking into rates, I figured out that 3 days (2 nights) for two families to rent a houseboat on Lake Shasta was pretty darn affordable. Our economy boat slept eight comfortably, had bathroom, shower, almost full sized fridge, stove, microwave and most importantly a grill and blender.
Our travel companions were a delight, my girlfriend Kristina is a fellow crafter and her 1st question during our pre-trip planning session was, “What are we going to make”? Turns out we made a lot and packed even more, “just in case”
Happily for Kristina our route from Portland to Shasta CA drove us through Eugene Oregon where we had a few hours to spend at the Black Sheep Wool Gathering an annual fiber arts covergence of tactile wonders. There were dozens of booths featuring knitting, felting and spinning supplies and gorgeous balls of natural dyed wool begging for a project.
Black Sheep is more than a retail show though, it’s also a place where animals are brought to be judged with arena pens filled with sheep and goats. It was a great feeling to get my wool not just directly from the ranchers, but actually see some of the animals who’s winter coats were soon to be a part of my next pair of socks. Kristina and I could have spent the whole day there, or even two, some folks bring tents and camp out, but the kids and our men folk were itching to get to the lake and unpack our gear.
We’d reserved our boat for three days and two nights and the travel agent I spoke with on the phone said for an extra fee we’d be able to board the boat the evening before our trip, unpack, and spend the night in the marina before
our morning orientation session. It sounded like a great arrangement, but they neglected to tell us though that we needed to call ahead 1st. We rolled into Lake Shasta around 7pm planning to unpack and cook dinner on the lake, but found out our boat wouldn’t actually be ready until the next morning. After seven hours of driving, this was a big bummer especially since we were hungry and the kids needed some run around time. Fortunately the marina had a cute hotel with pool and they discounted our rooms a bit to make up for the inconvenience. We all have our own coping mechanisms, the kids of course immediately jumped in the water, I opened a beer and Kristina busted out her new Navajo spindle and gorgeous wool roving. I foraged through our coolers and managed to throw together an awesome meal which we enjoyed alfresco by the pool, managing to have a delightful time despite our setback.
Counting down the days to our favorite holiday, Dia de los Muertos. The kids and I have started to drag stuff out of the basement to make our family altar. Some years we do it big and set everything on the dining room table pressed up against a wall, but it leaves us eating in the kitchen for a bit and so this year I think we’ll be using the space on top of the piano. I start putting pictures up 1st, of our relatives who’ve passed away, grandparents and a special space for my uncle Steve who was a big fan of the holiday. I tried to find some cool links on the net to connect Steve to, he was a UPI reporter for many years and worked for Westword Magazine in Denver as well as contributing articles to the Denver Post and now defunct Rocky Mountain News. Thing is, Steve died in ’03 and most of his work is buried somewhere in microfilm. Need to do more digging there I guess… We do have some of Steve’s ashes and those will go on the altar along with candles, and a bottle of Guinness and one of his favorite hats.
Over the next few days the kids and I will start making sugar skulls. I posted a tutorial a few years back and you can link to it here. This year we’re making lots of extra skulls to sell at the Someday Lounge Day of the Dead party on the 1st. 100% of the proceeds from the sales will go to “Wheels for Henry” a fundraising drive for our buddy Henry who needs a new van which will hold his fab new wheel chair and walker. Henry’s getting a bit to big for his mom’s old car and I think it’s on last legs. We are very down with the “pimp Henry’s ride” idea and will have him and Chloe over for a skull making playdate this week. I’ll also be selling the skulls on my Etsy shop for folks who can’t make it over to the party.
I’ll be posting altar pictures over the next few days, Crafty Chica is running a shrine contest on the CRAFT site, which looks pretty cool and I’m always up for more glitter in my life. The contest runs through the 28th and they are looking for altar/shrine photos to be uploaded on their flickr site.
I picked up this amazing thrift store find at Goodwill over the weekend. We’ve got a lot of science books already, but figured this one would be great for cutting up into various art projects. Little did I know what a gem I’d come across.
It was written by John Paton and published in 1985, my 1st year of highschool. Most of the science inside is sound,(actually, that’s not true) with the writing drastically condensed. Our entire solar system is covered on pages 10-11, not counting the half page illustrations. Paton does get the important information covered- “never look at the sun with naked eye, telescope or binoculars”. Sadly the paragraph devoted to Pluto is wasted space now. Knowing then, that space about space is a premium, it is interesting to see some of the things Paton did include, things I don’t ever remember in freshman astronomy…
“The Moon has many of the valuable minerals that are becoming scarcer and scarcer on Earth. Perhaps in years to come the Moon’s minerals will be mined and transported as in the picture below. Lunar gravity is only one-sixth of Earth’s so it is much easier to shoot things off its surface into space. The minerals could be put into huge buckets and fired off a track by magnetic waves. This mechanism is called a mass driver. Out in space, the minerals could be ‘caught’ by a space tug and taken to wherever they are needed”.
OK, last I checked the earth wasn’t too hard up for iron, aluminum or silicon, I’m wondering just which scarce minerals Paton is imagining us suiting up for- unless he was still living under that popular 1985 belief that the moon was made of cheese. The illustrations are 1st rate though…
At first I thought that perhaps the book’s editor, Michael Dempsey had hired the illustrators prior to the writer and Paton was running from punt position based on the excellent sci-fi material handed to him. If that was truly the case there should have been more pictures of scantily clad space vixens with ray guns and tin foil mini skirts. A quick Wikipedia surf on “mass drivers” led me to a much stranger and subversive discovery.
These propulsion units are basically electromagnetic catapults which would be used as a primary “non-rocket based” acceleration systems to get you out of orbit. You would probably also need some type of supplementary electric system, and could possibly agument with nuclear reactors.
The mass drivers were conceived by Gerard K. O’Neil, a Princeton university professor who strongly advocated for human colonization of outer space as soon as possible. O’Neil did some great and important work in particle physics- and this truly merited success may have made him a bit cocky. After retiring from teaching he founded the Space Studies Institute and put some serious thought into the whole cities in space concept- His new frontiers; “Island Three” and another popular space colony system the “Torus Colony” happen to be covered in depth on pages 18 and 19 of “The Children’s 1st Encyclopedia”.
I didn’t know there was such a thing as sci-fi propaganda, but I do believe I’ve got a hold of some now, and it should probably be worth something. I’m loath to put it up on Ebay, lest the buyer not fully appreciate the techno weirdness they got their mitts on.
It is important to note that while this is a “science” encyclopedia, there is a scant one page devoted to chemistry and if you’re looking for the periodic table, you’d best be grabbing another book.
While I tend to be drawn into the whole “let’s make babies in space” scenario, I found the section on Atomic Energy even more endearing. The five paragraphs, excluding sidebar, went into a very convoluted explanation of nuclear fusion. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it- What I found most fantastic about this section wasn’t the pleasing factoids, but again the amazing illustrations: crazy large solar panels next to a giant power station in an area which looks suspiciously like Shiprock NM. I’m just not sure the Navajo nation is going to sign off on this one. Aside from the area being one of their most significant religious and historical sites, the tribe wouldn’t be eligible to get tax incentives for the renewable energy development due to their federal tax exempt status. Seriously, why go green (or atomic green, like in the picture) if you can’t catch a break.
So now what to do with the book, I’m sure there is a fantastic craft opportunity waiting to happen, I’ll just need to read a little deeper and for the time being, put down the scissors.
As summers go, ours ended up being pretty mellow, no camp no big vacation, lots of hanging about the house getting under foot making trouble, bugging the dog… The lil peeps ened up getting into games, board games, cards, crosswords, anything with rules and a purpose. We found a horde of used putters at the thrift store and suddenly the summer was golf on demand. Rather than shilling out $20 for every trip to the mini strip, we decided to build our own courses and designed a set of flags that traveled in the car along with us for impromptu games. This has become a great activity for them- setting up a course usually takes twice as long as a game, as they look for natural hazards and geographical anomalies. My son especially enjoys hitting into the rough and water and mud hazards are a magnetic destination rather than something to be avoided.
Since making flags was their own swell idea, the kids were enlisted in some serious production work- way to keep the manipulative motor skills honed over break! We hand stitched the numbers to the front of the flags then I attached a second layer to the back using a machine. We used a synthetic felt from the craft store since it’s cheap and stands up well making the numbers easy to see from a distance.
Lucy especially liked the project. She and I tend to have relaxed, random conversations while we’re stitching. Both kids like to sew but burn out quickly- by having lots of colors to choose from and different thread handy, they stuck with the tasks a bit longer. Each of them designed the flag for their age and suddenly the numbers became personified with a hidden kid symbol language ascribed to each.
We’ve taken the flags to one of the larger flat parks near our house and had a great time, really spreading the course out over large distances. We avoid using drivers or going for big hits, don’t want to scare/wound the locals. Ideally with a mini course design, you’d want to be able to make a hole in one on every hole, with challenges for not getting it right the 1st time. With a guerrila course it’s a bit hard to structure, plus we aren’t too hung up on the rules. We’ve been using cardboard strawberry boxes for the holes, they are light, stackable and easy to carry. Paper cups would work just as well,we just happened to have the boxes lying around.
The back of the flags are cut so they hang either atop the wooden dowels or can be hung as a garland. As hoped the look great strung up inside and for his 9th birthday my son wants a golf party, no prob bro. we got the decor done already!
I’ve just uploaded the “how to” info for making your own flags on
instructables if you want to make your own set.
There was a plan- to make those super cute sugar egg dioramas like the ones my mom would give to me every Easter. I’m still a novice with royal icing, I can make it, but the fancy decor is a bit beyond my skill set. I decided to take some short cuts and go with the glue gun/rickrack double combo. We’d done a dry run at craft night on Thursday and my friends had all walked away with lovely treats. My first step was to paint the inside of the hollow sugar eggs with glitter glue, forgetting how wet some glues can be. Lucy’s egg held up well, but the glue completely disintegrated the roof of Xander’s egg and it imploded on itself. Fortunately the boy had asked for something spooky and really is there anything more creepy than a fly emerging from a giant egg, a gutted skeleton perched in it’s mandibles… I’d say the whole thing was a learning moment, and once again a crafting accident has turned into a gift home run, needless to say, my son is delighted though he is seriously questioning the Easter Bunny’s judgement.
Well, last year’s Day of the Dead party was huge fun and my friends at the Someday Lounge in Portland Oregon agree! We’re planning to do it all over again this year, with a free skull decorating workshop, a community altar build and procession through Old Town and the Park block areas. We’re planning on starting the party at around 3pm. Making the skulls is my favorite part of the day, something the kids really get into, especially with the glitter and icing. We’ll have mexican hot choclate, face painting and watch short films too. Many people came dressed up last year and we had a number of folks marching on stilts… Last year the alter was fairly small, but this year we’re sending out invitations to artists and crafters to participate, bringing mememntos of loved ones or other ephemeria to celebrate the holiday.
The lil peeps and I are really excited for Sunday and the children’s portion of PICA’s TBA festival, tiny tba. It’s something I’ve participated in for the last three years and it’s been a complete hoot. My friends Belinda and Hova of the most awesome radio program Greasy Kid Stuff host the event which features a kid dance party among other great performance pieces including Anna Oxygen, songs by Smithsonian Folkways Recording artist Elizabeth Mitchell and a performance by the Portland dance company Hot Little Hands there’s a link to the line-up here….
I’ll be showing about a half hour of global independent cinema for children and my friend Lars and I will have a hands on editing workshop. It’s something we’ve done a bunch in the past and features scratching and drawing on found footage and splicing together on the fly. It’s pretty fun and it’s amazing to watch kids “get it” when they realize that the film stock itself can be a medium, something beyond traditional narrative structures. I posted an example of Molly’s finished film on my kidfilmmaker blog. In the past we’ve done this workshop without sound, but a recent walk in the rain with my son inspired me to add another improvisational layer to the creative process.
Xander and I were busy attaching ponies to rings around town (see previous post) when we came across the innards from an old piano in an alley. It was just the back with metal wood and strings but we knew at once it was a real treasure. We plucked, banged and pulled on the strings for about 20 minutes getting the loveliest variations in tone which all complimented the small downpour we endured for our spontaneous art. The piano’s owner was willing to part with it and with only the slightest hesitation my husband and later PICA came to appreciate what was to be know as “the large unexpected object”. Getting it over to Leftbank where tiny tba is being held was a small challenge since it’s fairly large and weighs about 500 lbs. but I think worth the effort. I’m really looking forward to hearing the kids compose on the fly, narrating their experimental films. Lars is going to digitize the final work and my buddy Makayla has come on board as the official videographer for Indiekid Arts, so I’ll post the fruits of our labor soon.
Additionally, I’m helping to coordinate a paint chip poetry project for PNCA’s Continuing Education department. We’re cutting up and rearranging hardware store samples to create visual and verbal art. It’s a really cool activity, deserving of it’s own blog post which I’ll get to promptly, promise….
Here’s the project I’m helping to coordinate tomorrow, it should be a blast, though a very complicated arts ‘in-joke”
Knitting for Ponies the steps
- Make a small fancy thing in yarn- scarves, blankets and legwarmers are nice.
- Find a pony to dress, a great place to look is on the interactive pony map http://www.platial.com/map/the-horse-project-portland/6077#the_horse_project,_portland Many of the older ponies have disappeared, scroll through the “Items on Map” option until you find the PNCA ponies, they just found homes in Portland
- Take a picture of your well dressed pony and add it to the map or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll upload it for you!
- Can’t find a pony? Grab one at our table and put it out on a ring! Let us know where to find it!
Knit Graffiti and Yarn Bombing!
For Art in the Pearl, PNCA’s Continuing Education outreach table is hosting an activity which combines this simple knit, guerilla/community art and interactive media with another Portland arts phenomenon, the little horses.
What the heck? Knit graffiti is a strange urban crafts invention where knitters are engaging and decorating public spaces. The art can take many forms from embellished bike racks to hats for fire hydrants. Unlike spray paint graffiti, the work doesn’t damage property and is quickly subject to the elements, and do-gooders with scissors. The term “yarn bombing” is street slang for putting crafted work up, usually anonymously. A number of groups have formed around the world creating these small artworks and document them. Blogs about knit graffiti can be found on line including this great collection on Flickr and at www.knittaplease.com .
Over the last couple years in Portland, there has been a city wide spontaneous art happening where people have chained tiny horses to gigantic rings which line the sidewalks of the older business and residential neighborhoods. The original idea came from artist Scott Wayne Indiana and is called the The Horse Project . The rings were originally set in concrete for people to tie their horses to when that was the main mode of transportation. At our table kids and adults will be crafting the horses legwarmers, blankets, yarn garlands and hats, using finger knitting and easy spool techniques.
Yarn for the project was donated by Twisted the yarn shop on NE Broadway, where one can stock up on supplies and get a cup of tea!
This was the party we anticipated all summer and it was fantastic! Marilyn and Allen opened up the old church and invited us all over for a fancy cotillion and pie fight party as a fundraiser for the Nomadic Theater Co., clowns who practice in the space. Heather and Sarah gave a short version of “Running into Walls” that they’ll be performing in NY in the fall. Fay taught us “stately dancing” which was pretty hysterical, as with clowns, I have two left feet. There were several pie related activities- pie judging on beauty, pie eating, and lots of pie throwing in THE PIE PIT. The last was a small ringed in area, similar to Mad Max’s Thunderdome, where there was a mele of bad behavior. Thankfully there was an outside shower, but I’m still pretty sticky. And while there was no official contest for hats, several of my firends stepped up to the plate (ah hem) and made some really great head gear….
Laura based the outfit on a penchant for Pirate wear and and wearing (at least once) the over-the-top (well almost) girly pirate shirt we found for her at the rennisance festival. The kids made their own hats too…
Xander decided his hat should be both manly and functional, since he spent most of the afternoon in the pie pit, on the receiving end, his creation was most appropriate….
Amy, the queen of craft and aces with a glue gun came in one hat, which she thoughtfully gave to me. I hope the dog doesn’t eat the marshmallow trim…
I was delighted to get such an elegant gift, so I sent her home in the petite chapeau I’d made for myself. We hope the party was a success for the clowns and that Marilyn was able to get the whipped cream off the walls, we love to do it again next year….